Robert Frost wrote many poems about everyday rural life that are closely linked with human emotions. Most of his poems contain hidden meanings that are not clear at first sight.
Firstly, I will talk of the specifically American aspects in Frost’s poems. One thing sometimes found in Frosts poems that is American is the place in which the poem is set. The locations of Frosts poems often give a feeling of wide stretching forests and fields that go on for miles that don’t exist in many other countries.
“I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line”
This phrase, from “Mending Wall”, immediately suggests vast amounts of space as the speaker talks of, “beyond the hill”, having a hill on ones land indicates that it must be spacious, and, “we meet to walk the line”, this ‘walking the line’ gives an image of a boundary between two sizeable pieces of territory. “After Apple-Picking” also gives a sense of immense space with its’ title and subject matter. The title tells the reader of the event that is occurring in Frost’s orchard. Having an orchard on ones property implies a huge amount of land is owned.
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood”,
“And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth”
These phrases from “The Road Not Taken” also indicate a vast space. The second of the two phrases especially does this as the path travels so far in to the enormous wood that the speaker can not see its’ end, he can only see where it bends further on.
“Some boy too far away from town to learn baseball”
This line from “Birches” also emphasizes the space in America. The fact that a boy I too far from the nearest town to learn how to play baseball shows that there is a lot of room between heavily populated areas. Robert Frost uses the landscape’s size to indicate a feeling of isolation and loneliness.
Another American aspect of Frost’s poems are certain word spellings and place names.
“neighbor” – Mending Wall
“color” – Gathering Leaves
“Vermont” – Out, Out!
“woodchuck” – After Apple Picking
“Axe-helve” – Axe-helve
The first two phrases are spelling differences from United Kingdom English. “Vermont” is a state in America. “woodchuck” is an animal native to America and an “Axe-helve” is the American way of saying axe handle. However, I believe that these parts of the poems are superficial and aren’t really important to the poem’s content and idea.
American traditions are also sometimes mentioned in Frost’s poems.
“I like to think some boy’s been swinging on them”
This line, from “Birches”, talks of the tradition of swinging from branches of birch trees. The speaker tells the reader of how young boys, who are far away from a town and other young children, like to swing from branches. “Birches” also mentions another American tradition,
“Some boy too far away from town to learn baseball”
Lastly, I will discuss the distinctive American climate that is portrayed in Frost’s poems.
“We sit indoors and talk of the cold outside.
And every gust that gathers strength and heaves
Is a threat to the house.”
It is not often that you see climates like this outside of America, Especially not in the United Kingdom.
“He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.”
This line is from “Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening. This is also very much an American climate. Snow is quite rare in most other countries including the United Kingdom, particularly to the extent shown in this poem.
I will now talk of the Universal aspects in Frost’s poems. One aspect of Frost’s poems that is not centred on America is human emotions and philosophies. For example, at first sight “Mending Wall” seems to be a poem about two men building a wall between their two properties, however, the poem has a hidden meaning. The poem is really focused on the human barriers that people put up between themselves and others and the traditional views that the speaker disagrees with. This is a main characteristic of Frost’s poems and is featured in most of his work.
There is also a hidden meaning in “Stopping By Woods On a Snowy Evening”. On the surface the poem talks about a man who stops by some woods to watch them fill up with snow, however, its hidden meaning is about a man who seems somewhat weary of life and he wants to take a “time out”, but he can not do this as he has other responsibilities to adhere to. Another example of this is the poem “The Road Not Taken”. This poem talks of a man trying to decide which road to talk in a wood. Its hidden meaning is about the choices we have to make and how we can come to wonder if we have chosen the right path.
Also other aspects of Frost’s poems that are universal are his verse structures and some of his rhyme patterns. However, also some of his rhyme patterns were unique and exclusive to him. An example of this can be taken from “Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening”. He uses the same rhyme sound for each line in the four-lined verse, except for line three when he uses a new rhyme sound. He then carries this rhyme down to the next verse as the common rhyme sound and so on. When he reaches the last verse the rhyme sounds are all the same. This is a very clever technique as it makes the poem flow well and allows the reader to see the interconnecting superficial theme and hidden meaning. Also by keeping the rhyme sound constant in the last verse he makes his final point stand out and rounds off the poem.
In conclusion, I would say that on the whole Frost’s poems are universal and have universal appeal as they deal mainly with human emotions. The aspects of his poems that are specific to America are superficial and have no real relation to the poems themes and ideas.